Eric Schneiderman’s Fall
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It’s hard to remember the fall of a powerful politician in New York that was as swift — and deserved — as the resignation last night of Eric Schneiderman as the state’s attorney general. It followed by only hours a devastating dispatch in the New Yorker disclosing allegations by four women of assaults by Mr. Schneiderman — beatings, at least two death threats, violent racism, and threats to use the power of his office to pursue his prey.
The allegations were reported by one of the New Yorker’s veteran reporters, Jane Mayer, and one of its fastest rising stars, Ronan Farrow. One woman, Michelle Manning Barish, described Mr. Schneiderman striking her repeatedly, once so hard that blood ran from her ear to her collarbone. Another, Tanya Selvaratnam, said Mr. Schneiderman called her his “brown slave” and beat her until she called him “master.” Both say he threatened at times to kill them.
Mr. Schneiderman was quoted by the New Yorker as admitting that “in the privacy of intimate relationships” he had “engaged in role-playing and other consensual sexual activity.” He was quoted by the New Yorker, though, as saying that he had “not assaulted anyone” and had “never engaged in non-consensual sex,” which he called “a line I would not cross.” In resigning, Mr. Schneiderman said that he “strongly” contests the allegations.
These columns have made a point amid the cataract of stories about sexual assault, rape, and harassment to speak up for due process. We opposed, say, the rapid resignation of Senator Al Franken, who was disputing some of the claims against him. Mr. Franken, though, was faced with nothing remotely as serious as what strike us as the felonies described in the New Yorker’s story about Mr. Schneiderman. So lurid are the charges they’re hard to read.
In addition to Mmes. Manning Barish and Selvaratnam, the New Yorker reported, two other women said that Mr. Schneiderman struck them. Neither was named in the magazine’s dispatch. It was, in any event, clear almost from the moment the New Yorker scoop hit the wires that Mr. Schneiderman would not be able to continue in office. Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Gillibrand were among those who promptly called for him to quit.
Mr. Schneiderman himself acknowledged the accusations would prevent him from leading his office’s work. Bizarrely, he tried to claim that the allegations were, as he put it, “unrelated to my professional conduct or the operations of the office.” Yet he is accused of violent, sick behavior that is always wrong but particularly dangerous in someone who wields the kind of vast prosecutorial power with which New York had entrusted Mr. Schneiderman.
Mr. Schneiderman has sometimes seemed, at least to us, not to comprehend the boundaries of the constitutions he swore to uphold. Just three weeks ago he called for New York to end certain protections against double jeopardy so that he could prosecute under state law persons whom President Trump might pardon of the same offense under federal law. It was a rare case of a lawman trying to shatter bedrock protections amid a legal battle.
So this strikes us as an important moment for New York. It took courage for the women, and the New Yorker, to go public with their stories of horror. All the more so because the women, like the magazine, are otherwise sympathetic to the liberalism — and the #MeToo movement — of which Mr. Schneiderman postured as an avatar. Let their courage be met with a tough prosecution of whatever crimes Mr. Schneiderman committed.